Brinkman: Unions the ultimate zombies

The following appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer on April 13, 2016.

Brinkman: Unions the ultimate zombies

Tom Brinkman
St. Rep. Tom Brinkman

Since I have spoken publicly about my intention to propose a right-to-work bill this legislative session, I have gotten numerous questions. Supporters want to know what it will take to win and finally make union membership an individual choice, not a job requirement.

Other concerned voices ask why I would resurrect this issue now, when it is sure to ignite passionate disagreement. To them, I can only say that this is the right thing to do.

The United States was founded on principles. Freedom of association – to belong or not belong to a religious, civic, social, or labor organization – is one of the most precious. But this right is violated every day by our current labor laws.

Over the past three-quarters of a century, unions have become the ultimate zombies. They are granted overwhelming protection under the law, such that a certified union remains in a workplace forever. The employees who voted it in retire and move on, but the union outlives them all.

The result is de facto employee disenfranchisement. Department of Labor statistics show that a mere 7 percent of unionized workers actually voted for the labor organization claiming to represent them. The rest were never offered a say.

The problem is compounded here in Ohio, because it is perfectly legal to require these employees to pay dues to a union they don’t like and have no way to get rid of. The only way out is to abandon a job they need to feed their families. Hundreds of thousands of Buckeyes fall into this trap.

Change is needed to remedy this injustice. Right-to-work laws put an end to mandatory union membership. That way, employees can vote with their dollars. If they believe the union is doing good things, they can pay dues and get actively involved, just as they can today. But if they believe the incumbent union has fallen out of touch with workers’ interest, they can opt to rescind their financial support.

Already 26 states offer employees such freedom. Not only is it welcomed by workers, it has proven beneficial to the economy. A Glassdoor Economic Research study found that of the 50 cities recovering most quickly since the Great Recession, 72 percent were in states with right-to-work laws. And most of them saw an increase in the average hourly wage as well.

Just look at the windfall right-to-work states are seeing right now in automotive, aerospace and high-tech manufacturing jobs, and you’ll see what Ohio is missing out on.

Right-to-work in Ohio is an essential step that can be made through the passing of Ohio HB 377, but another necessary change can only be made at the federal level. Congress must update the U.S. statutes that cover union certifications and operations. The Employee Rights Act is the best legislative vehicle being considered.

This bill would ensure that unions serve at the will of their members. One of its most important provisions is a periodic recertification election, which would at last give current employees a vote in whether or not their workplaces remain unionized. Other provisions would guarantee employees fair, democratic election processes and protect their paychecks from mandatory political giving. For the many Republican union members across Ohio whose pay is being docked to fund Hillary Clinton’s bid for president, this would be a welcome change.

To be clear, the message here is not anti-union. Neither a right-to-work law nor the Employee Rights Act would ban, restrict or inhibit unions in any way. Only labor organizations surviving solely because employees have been denied the right to choose their own representation have any reason for concern.

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Brinkman wins anti-Common Core battle

The following appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer on 3/16/16

Brinkman wins anti-Common Core battle

by, Jessie Balmert,

Tom Brinkman
Tom Brinkman

Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. eked out a win over former supporter Heidi Huber in a battle over who loathed nationwide Common Core standards more.

Brinkman, of Mount Lookout, won by just 359 votes — 1.5 percent of those cast — in unofficial results that don’t include about 1,000 provisional ballots that will be counted in the next 10 days. That’s just outside the 0.5 percent margin needed to trigger an automatic recount. Candidates who lose tight races can request a recount at their own expense, but Huber said she won’t.

“I don’t know if it changes the ultimate outcome,” Huber said. “I think he’ll prevail.”

Huber and Brinkman waged a competitive, and at times bitter, battle for the House seat in eastern Hamilton County over how to best kill  Common Core educational standards. Huber accused Brinkman of not doing enough to eliminate the much-maligned nationwide standards. Brinkman shot back that he was just one man in a legislature of 132 members — many of whom aren’t too upset about Common Core. Ohio was one of the first states to adopt Common Core standards in 2010 and very few students opt out of state tests, which had been tied to state money for schools.

“While we complain a lot, it is hard to move other legislators when you only have 2 percent actually being against it enough to opt out,” Brinkman said. “The legislators are not moved because they haven’t seen the groundswell.”

A proposal from Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, to eliminate and replace Common Core went nowhere in the GOP-controlled House, and Gov. John Kasich supports the standards. Still, Brinkman said he hasn’t given up. “We just have to attack it a little different way,” he said.

But Huber sees it differently. Brinkman broke a promise he made to eliminate these standards and challenge GOP leadership in Columbus. Instead, he joined the Columbus political machine, she said.

“He is not going to be able to do anything that isn’t approved by the speaker,” Huber said. “That’s exactly why I was running. We want our representative government back.”

Huber beat Brinkman in her native Anderson Township, but Brinkman won areas like Mariemont, Mount Lookout and Indian Hill. Turnout was high with more than 23,725 votes cast — up significantly from about 9,300 cast in the competitive 2014 primary between Brinkman and incumbent Peter Stautberg. Brinkman attributed the closeness of Tuesday’s race to Huber’s vindictive, negative campaign.

“It was kind of like a rising flood,” Brinkman said. “You didn’t know how serious it was going to be.”

Hamilton County Republican Chairman Alex Triantafilou gave Huber credit for keeping it close, calling her a smart, relentless candidate. “She has huge energy and a strong base of support,” he added

Brinkman faces Democrat Joe Otis in November. Otis challenged Brinkman in 2014, but lost the heavily Republican district with just 32.3 percent of the vote.

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